I rated Live by Night (2016) 5/10 #IMDb

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2361317

With its epigrammatic dialogue and bad guy who isn’t so bad, this is the kind of gangster blah blah that makes you wish to see the untouchables again.

One of its redeeming features is that the characters are generally either complex in their good/evil mix or 2D stereotypes. Though this won’t help you find much empathy for any of them.

In Boston it is the same old same old thug/hoodlum/gangster cliches from any other movie. Things pick up in Florida with the local gangs, police, and the KKK but then its back to the usual business of gangsters. Finally there’s a hint at normal life.

Well done but ultimately tedious and tolerable. Don’t go out of your way for it.

I rated Underworld: Blood Wars (2016) 4/10 #IMDb

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3717252

Exactly what you’d expect. More of the same vampires vs vampires vs werewolves fast action fighting and feuding.

Not dreadful, just not remarkable, or new. The cast do a good job of filling the scenes. The dialog offers convincing noises for their mouths moving. There’re guns, knives, blood, and guts and lots of crusty-like werewolves and black-clad vampires. Oh and fighting. Lots of fighting.

I rated Manchester by the Sea (2016) 8/10 #IMDb

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4034228

Beautifully shot. I’d like to move to Manchester tomorrow on the basis of the cinematography.

A tale of real-seeming people coming to terms with the aftermath of death, life, and the day to day of trying to get on.

Great performances all round. The venal solipsism and carnal desires of teens offer some amusing and uncomfortable light relief at times. And the difficulty of facing past events creates some credible awkwardness between the characters.

It is slow going at times but the occasional aimless-seeming real-time footage offers a chance to recover from some of the tougher times. And here and there we get some beautiful music in the soundtrack.

Well worth seeing but expect it to be closer to the pace of real life than an action flick.

I rated A Monster Calls (2016) 9/10 #IMDb

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3416532

A tragic tale of deception, honesty, fantasy, and fear.

You can read the summary elsewhere. For me the portrayal of emotion in this film was remarkable. Some of the scenes are typical and predictable but the monster scenes and the scenes of the boy’s turmoil were excellent.

The monster’s tales were superb. Both in their animation and in their rich messages: life is to be lived, people are complex, everything is lived in shades of grey, etc

You’ll very likely weep with empathy or sympathy. Take some tissues. To avoid weeping see my footnote*.

Sigourney Weaver does a good job of being a stern ‘gran’ and has a surprisingly calm reaction to some quite traumatic events. Though her accent is a bit ‘proper’ for the setting.

Unsure if any boy’s bedroom looks like this boy’s bedroom has been imagined.

Liam Neeson is great as the monster suitably threatening and yet reassuring.

*my daughter did not cry at all. She claimed one thought stopped her: that the monster’s face was very similar to that of Groot from guardians of the galaxy. And all she could think during the monster scenes was ‘I am Groot’.

I rated Assassin’s Creed (2016) 4/10 #IMDb

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2094766

Possibly the best video game to movie adaptation I’ve seen. It has some slick action sequences and some impressive battle and inquisition pieces. Its lack of a real story lets it down. The repetition of scenes in the ‘animus’ and the over-reliance on fancy visual effects add to the burden of style over substance. These qualities combined with its perceived running time of about 3.5 hours make it a movie to avoid. Will the curse ever be broken?

I rated Passengers (2016) 7/10 #IMDb

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1355644

Saw it in 3D. It added nothing except a dimmer screen.

Eerie, creepy, romantic, heartbreaking, perilous, deadly, delightful. This is a sci-fi love story with a bit of deep space adventure, danger, tragedy, and thrills.

My 12-year-old thought it a bit romantic at times. And there were some ‘passionate’ moments that caused some squirming. Nonetheless, the emphasis is on falling in love, being in love, being betrayed, and the aftermath. And at the same time there’s some fun with Michael sheen as the android bartender as well as deep space peril from a meteor storm.

Well put together, calmly paced where it matters, and only a bit preposterous this is a neat love story in space with a bit of action thrown in.

Not sure about space swimsuits, but the gravity-free swimming pool peril is terrifying. As is the holed storeroom. Some brilliant bits in an overall good fun movie.

Worth watching…in 2D.

I rated Moana (2016) 7/10 #IMDb

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3521164

The best Disney princess movie yet.

I saw it in 2D.

Despite it being a musical, only 1 song, well perhaps 1.5 songs are a bit limp. The crab song and the grandma’s reprise. Even then, they help the story along.

Moana has some great numbers and works well as a character balancing her responsibilities as future chief and her interest in adventure. ‘No one goes beyond the reef’. Oh yes they do. And with some real verve.

Maui the demigod does a fine supporting job and adds some comic relief, pathos, and action beyond Moana’s own exploits.

Well worth watching.